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Packaging Face-off: Battle of the Milks

A cartoonish milk carton and jug with angry faces and raised fists, as if in a confrontation.

Paper-based, waxy-coated milk cartons often tout themselves as recyclable, but did you know that gable-top and tetra-pak cartons-- anything paperboard with that glossy, waterproof coating on it-- are NOT recyclable in SLO County? The polyethylene layer that coats those cartons to make them water-resistant also makes them challenging to recycle, because our facilities can't separate the paper from the thin plastic lining.

Instead when you're in the milk aisle, look for plastic jugs or glass bottled milks. Plastic jugs are accepted by our local recycling facilities, and that plastic is downcycled into a new life as another plastic product. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse the jug, and recycle with the cap ON. Glass bottles are even better because glass is endlessly recyclable, and most glass bottles are CRV eligible, which gives you a deposit back upon return. Some suppliers even offer return and reuse programs for their glass bottled milk products!

Or for consumers looking for the ultimate packaging-free milk, try making your own oat or almond milk at home and storing it in a container you already own!

If you find yourself confused by recycling guidelines in SLO County, be sure to use our Recycling Guide to get tips on how to properly dispose almost any material.  And next time you go to buy your favorite dairy or plant-based milk, take a closer look at its packaging!

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